In many karate styles, practitioners train in a set of forms called Pyung Ahn or Pinan. For those non-martial artists out there, a form is a prearranged set of techniques that teach students certain fighting applications. Many of these forms, like the Pyung Ahn, are hundreds of years old and have been passed down for generations. The purpose of this post is not to dissect the individual movements in these forms; that is a lot of work in itself and open to interpretation. I will, however, use the themes in the Pyung Ahn forms and relate them to parenting. Every form has its own philosophical meaning and I feel the Pyung Ahn forms embody my current parenting experiences quite well at the moment.
Before getting too far, it is important to give some brief context regarding the Pyung Ahn forms. The Pyung Ahn are a set of 5 forms that originated in Okinawa and were adapted by Anko Itosu in the late 1800s. It is difficult to call him the creator of the forms since he adapted them from other forms. The word Pyung Ahn can be translated as safety, peace, calm, and balance. These forms are very defensive in nature and are often characterized by the animal representation of the turtle.
So, how does this relate to parenting? First, I need to tell the story of how the concept of Pyung Ahn and parenting came to be. I am a lifelong martial artist and have owned a studio for 16 years. My brain is filled with useless (to most people) information on the martial arts being so involved in it for so long. I also have a 16-month-old son, our first child. Due to the nature of being a martial arts studio owner coupled with COVID19 forcing us to shut down several times, I have been the primary caregiver for our son.
For the most part, being the primary caregiver has been great. I greatly enjoy spending time with my son, especially at this stage of his development. I got to see milestones like crawling, walking, etc. that I otherwise would not have seen. I thought I had some time before the terrible twos kicked in but for whatever reason, he went through the terrible 15 months. All of a sudden, he could reach things, climb on things, open things, and get very upset if I took something away from him, he wanted but wasn’t supposed to have.
One Friday, I was doing some work from home on the computer and my hard drive crashed. The year 2020 had not been stellar up to that point so this was just icing on the cake. It put me in a very bad, short tempered mood. Now, combine that with new personality traits my son started exhibiting and you can imagine how great that made my mood. I found myself being short tempered and upset towards my son. My patience was certainly being tested. That was the moment the Pyung Ahn Parent came to mind.
If you think about the meaning of the words Pyung Ahn, calm, balance, safety, peace, they exemplify all the necessary qualities of a parent.
Calm – Remaining calm and patient is very challenging as a parent. However, it is of the utmost importance. When we get frantic, angry, and short tempered, our children feed off of this and the situation gets worse. A calm mind allows us to come up with a solution more quickly as well as displays an important quality that we would like children to emulate.
Balance – A balanced parent is flexible and goes with the flow but does not steer too far in one direction. When our child gets inconsolable and upset, we need to balance that with the opposite energy. Getting upset and angry ourselves will only add more fuel to the fire of our child’s emotions.
Safety – It goes without saying that we as parents are responsible for keeping our kids safe. We often only think about this in terms of physical safety, such as not letting them run into the street or fall down the stairs. We also need to keep the safe by giving them the right behavior to model. Being a parent who gets angry and can’t control their emotions will lead to a child with the same problem.
Peace – I think it is an unspoken goal of everyone to live a peaceful, harmonious, love-filled life. It is also our job as parents to provide our kids this opportunity as well as the tools to continue the journey themselves.
Just like the Pyung Ahn forms, think of parenting as a turtle: slow, steady, calm, peaceful, and safe. The next time you feel short tempered or angry around your kids, think of being a Pyung Ahn Parent.